Some properties of human neuronal α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors fused to the green fluorescent protein

Eleonora Palma, Anna M. Mileo, Ataúlfo Martínez-Torres, Fabrizio Eusebi, Ricardo Miledi

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The functional properties and cellular localization of the human neuronal α7 nicotinic acetylcholine (AcCho) receptor (α7 AcChoR) and its L248T mutated (mut) form were investigated by expressing them alone or as gene fusions with the enhanced version of the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Xenopus oocytes injected with wild-type (wt), mutα7, or the chimeric subunit cDNAs expressed receptors that gated membrane currents when exposed to AcCho. As already known, AcCho currents generated by wtα7 receptors decay much faster than those elicited by the mutα7 receptors. Unexpectedly, the fusion of GFP to the wt and mutated α7 receptors led to opposite results: the AcCho-current decay of the wt receptors became slower, whereas that of the mutated receptors was accelerated. Furthermore, repetitive applications of AcCho led to a considerable "run-down" of the AcCho currents generated by mutα7-GFP receptors, whereas those of the wtα7-GFP receptors remained stable or increased in amplitude. The AcCho-current run-down of mutα7-GFP oocytes was accompanied by a marked decrease of α-bungarotoxin binding activity. Fluorescence, caused by the chimeric receptors expressed, was seen over the whole oocyte surface but was more intense and abundant in the animal hemisphere, whereas it was much weaker in the vegetal hemisphere. We conclude that fusion of GFP to wtα7 and mutα7 receptors provides powerful tools to study the distribution and function of α7 receptors. We also conclude that fused genes do not necessarily recapitulate all of the properties of the original receptors. This fact must be borne close in mind whenever reporter genes are attached to proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3950-3955
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 19 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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